Dadaab, Garissa County, Kenya –
Dadaab refugees have long been enduring the hardships of limited food resources. This struggle will now deepen as the World Food Programme (WFP) announced a drastic reduction in the food and cash assistance provided to Dadaab refugees starting in July. The Somali Digest talked to two residents of Dadaab, who described how this reduction affects their daily lives.
The World Food Programme has been a vital lifeline for displaced people, providing them with essential food items and food vouchers each month. However, the recently announced cuts in rations and cash aid have left refugees in dire straits, forcing them to make even more difficult choices regarding their sustenance and well-being. The WFP refers to a lack of funds.
Among the various food items the WFP provides every month, rice and cooking oil have been the most valuable to the refugees. These staple food items are crucial for meeting their nutritional needs, and the reduction in their allocation has left many unable to provide adequately for their families. Previously, refugees received 12kg of rice and sorghum, 3kg of pulses, and 1kg of cooking oil per person per month. Due to the current circumstances, these rations have been reduced to 6.3kg of rice and sorghum, 1.5kg of pulses, and 1kg of cooking oil.
Cash assistance reduced too
On top of the reduced food rations, refugees also relied on food vouchers (which some refer to as cash assistance) from the WFP, known as “Bamba Chakula.” Previously, each person received 850 Kenyan shillings (approx. $6) monthly, providing at least a small financial relief and an opportunity to address additional needs. The food vouchers have now been reduced to a mere 450 shillings (approximately $3) per person and month, compounding the hardships faced by the already vulnerable refugee population.
The consequences of these cuts in food and cash assistance have been dire. Many refugees are now unable to provide three meals a day for themselves and their families. Instead, they are forced to adjust to two or, in some cases, only one meal a day. With limited access to other sources of income due to high unemployment in the camps, refugees are heavily reliant on the WFP for sustenance. The reduction in food and cash assistance has pushed them further into a cycle of hunger and desperation.
Voices of the affected
Abdirahman Mohamed, a block leader living in Hagadera refugee camp, Block J1, expressed his concerns: “The food reduction by the WFP means my kids will not eat twice a day.” He implores the WFP to increase food provisions and cash assistance, recognizing the devastating impact on the well-being of his family and others in the camp.
Hassan Bari, another refugee residing in Hagadera Block J1, laments Bamba Chakula’s cash assistance reduction, saying, “It was the only source of income I had, a lifeline for me.”
The plight of refugees demands immediate attention and action. Humanitarian organizations, governments, and the international community must respond swiftly to address the pressing needs of these vulnerable populations. Increased funding for food aid, restoration of previous rations, and a re-evaluation of cash assistance programs are the necessary steps to alleviate the suffering endured by the refugees.
Crisis exacerbated by war in Ukraine
The reduction in food and cash assistance provided by the WFP has exacerbated the already dire situation faced by refugees in the wake of the onset of the Russian war on Ukraine, which has caused a significant loss of grain exports from Ukraine to Africa.
The loss of adequate nourishment and financial support has forced refugees to make difficult choices regarding meal frequency and basic survival. Urgent action is needed to ensure these vulnerable populations receive the essential assistance they need to survive and rebuild their lives. The WFP, in its text message to residents of Dadaab seen by the Somali Digest, promised that once the funding situation improves, ration sizes will be increased again.
Hosting refugees since 1991
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of July 2020, the Dadaab refugee complex had a population of 218,873 registered refugees and asylum seekers. It should be noted, however, that there is also an unknown number of unregistered refugees. Kenya is estimated to host around 600,000 refugees in total, with the population divided almost equally between Dadaab and Kakuma refugee complexes.
The Dadaab complex consists of three camps. The first, Hagadera, was established in 1991 to accommodate refugees escaping the civil war in Somalia and seeking safety in Kenya. Another significant influx occurred in 2011, with around 130,000 refugees arriving in response to drought and famine in southern Somalia.